Earlier this year I received a request from YouVersion (a.k.a. https://www.bible.com/) to support their “Bible for Everyone” campaign by email (if you are on their email list you should have received it as well). 1 Because the Bible is God’s Word, and the proclamation of its core message, that is, salvation from sin through faith in Jesus Christ, is the only means by which anyone can be saved, 2 the importance of providing it to people in their native language is self-evident.
The importance of the translation of Scripture is also deeply personal. Were it not for the translation of the Bible into English, I would have never become a Christian. When I began reading the Bible at fourteen years old, no one was witnessing to me. But through reading His Word, God began to reveal Himself to me and over a year later I finally repented and put my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and was saved. Because of these things, I should be a prime candidate to gladly and willingly support Bible translation – yet for this particular fundraiser I am not.
Promoting “Muslim Idiom Translation”
We at Biblical Missiology have shown 3 that the following four “Muslim Idiom Translation” (MIT) versions – all available on YouVersion, contain the first part of the Islamic creed, or shahada, “There is no god but Allah,” the repetition of which, along with the second part (i.e. “and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”) is how a person converts to Islam:
The Sharif Bible 4
The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ / المعنى الصحيح لإنجيل المسيح (TMA) 5
The Good News Arabic / الترجمة العربية المشتركة (المشتركة) 6
The Tchadian Arabic (or, Chadian Arabic) / الكتاب المقدس بالعربي الدارجي هنا تشاد (ع.د.ت19) 7
I am also aware that a former Muslim from the Middle East wrote to YouVersion regarding his concerns about various Islamic phrases in The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ / المعنى الصحيح لإنجيل المسيح. He was informed that his concerns were forwarded to the publisher. At the time we spoke, his concerns had not been addressed by the publisher, “WBT Eastern Zone” (i.e. Wycliffe Bible Translators Eastern Zone). 10
Don’t Contact YouVersion, Contact the Publisher
In addition to this promotion of Islam in the name of Bible translation, YouVersion takes no apparent responsibility for the versions that it makes available. As of August 2020, they had a disclaimer page in their help section entitled, “Concerns about Wording in Versions” which contained the following text: 11
Contact Publisher for wording choice
1 We receive all versions directly from the publisher and do not make changes in text
2 Please contact the publisher of the translation for questions about the wording used in their translations
a The publisher’s web site can be found at the end of each chapter
b You can also find a list of all versions and publishers here. Just select the version and it will give publisher information.
Partnership with Publishers
– It’s only through cooperative partnerships with generous Bible societies and publishers that we are able to use the many versions that we do
– The organizations who provide YouVersion with the versions that we have available have demonstrated extraordinary grace and generosity in allowing us to bring them to a worldwide audience-completely free of charge
– In fact, their choice to partner with us makes possible everything that we do
– We are profoundly grateful for each of these relationships
Almost two years later this page is no longer available and brings up a “404 error” page. 12
In spite of YouVersion’s sidestepping its responsibility for the content of the versions that it makes available, what hinders them from including the New World Translation (NWT) published by the Watchtower Society (a.k.a. Jehovah’s Witnesses)? I am grateful that they do not make the NWT available as it is an intentional mistranslation to obscure the Scriptural witness to God’s triune nature (i.e. the Trinity), especially the deity of Jesus, in order to accord with the heretical beliefs of the Watchtower Society. Why then does YouVersion make available these MIT versions, all of which obscure the Scriptural witness to God’s triune nature – especially the deity of Jesus – in keeping with Islamic doctrine? 13
The answer to this selective discrimination seems to lie in the partnerships that YouVersion has with their supporters and publishing partners. “Bible for Everyone” is part of a larger campaign started on March 24, 2021, by illumiNations, an alliance of ten Bible translation organizations: 14
American Bible Society
Deaf Bible Society
Lutheran Bible Translators
Pioneer Bible Translators
United Bible Societies
The Word for the World
Wycliffe Bible Translators USA
The organization, illumiNations, “was first articulated by Mart Green, who founded Mardel Christian and chairs the Hobby Lobby board. He gathered several big givers and the heads of three Bible translation agencies, then laid out a vision for a central digital Bible library.” 15
Several years earlier, in 2010, Green initiated, “Every Tribe Every Nation” (ETEN), “a cooperative effort…with the goal of making the Bible available on cell phones around the world in the languages users understand best. [He] was impressed by the success of YouVersion, a smart phone application that allows people to read Scripture on their phones. Recognizing the technology’s potential for reaching the last languages, Mart approached organizations like American Bible Society (ABS), Biblica, United Bible Societies (UBS), and Wycliffe.” 16 This resulted in the creation of the digital database that YouVersion (and others) use which is known as the “Digital Bible Library.” 17
Bobby Gruenewald is a pastor and “Innovation Leader” at Life.Church. He is the one who started YouVersion and serves as its CEO. 18 During a 2019 interview, Green recounted a conversation that he had with Gruenewald regarding the start of YouVersion:
The headquarters of YouVersion just so happens to be in my hometown. I think God orchestrated that. I got a phone call from Bobby [Gruenewald] one day. “I’ve got this harebrained idea to put the Bible [on] the computer,” he said. “But you know what, God doesn’t own his Word. It’s intellectual property. I can’t get the rights to any of these, but somebody told me you might be able to help me.” So that’s how I got involved with Bobby [Gruenewald, founder of the YouVersion Bible app] from early, early on, and I was able to be part of that process. 19
In addition to Green’s heavy involvement with YouVersion, his father, David is “the major investor behind the YouVersion bible app amongst many others.” 20
I am unwilling to donate to the “Bible for Everyone” campaign because I have no confidence that YouVersion and its partners will ensure that it will result in adequate and faithful translations of Scripture from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments. I would hope that before you give, that you would consider the following questions:
Why does YouVersion have a “hands off” policy when it comes to taking responsibility for the content that it makes available on its app and website?
Why does YouVersion make available intentional mistranslations of Scripture?
Does YouVersion fear that their partner organizations will not grant them access to all of their versions should they refuse to make certain versions unavailable?
Does YouVersion fear losing the friendship of the Green family, their influence, and finances should they refuse to make certain versions available?
How can you as a donor verify if your good money is going towards a bad Bible?
A Bible for everyone is indeed a great goal, but when the text has been relativized to accord with false beliefs (or sinful lifestyles), all such versions cease to be adequate translations of God’s Word.
- email to author, Jul 27, 2022, 5:08 AM “What if the Bible didn’t exist in your language?” ↩
- e.g. Rom 1:16; 10:13-17 ↩
- See Mike Tisdell, “A Review of the Tchadien Arabic Bible Translation” and Adam Simnowitz, “Making the Bible More Islamic Than the Qur’an Through the First Half of the Islamic Creed (the Shahada); Muslim Idiom Translation: Assessing So-Called Scripture Translation For Muslim Audiences With A Look Into Its Origins In Eugene A. Nida’s Theories Of Dynamic Equivalence and Cultural Anthropology.” ↩
- https://www.bible.com/versions/153?returnTo=JHN.3 ↩
- https://www.bible.com/versions/1714?returnTo=JHN.3 ↩
- https://www.bible.com/versions/67?returnTo=JHN.3 ↩
- https://www.bible.com/versions/502-aadt19-lktb-lmkds-blaarby-ldrgy-hn-tshd ↩
- The Jesuit Arabic Bible / الترجمة الكاثوليكيّة (اليسوعيّة) (ت.ك.ع), https://www.bible.com/versions/1981?returnTo=JHN.3 ↩
- https://www.bible.com/bible/1981/1CO.8.%D8%AA.%D9%83.%D8%B9. ↩
- المعنى الصحيح لإنجيل المسيح – انشاد (TMA-C), accessed Aug. 2, 2022,https://www.bible.com/versions/3275?returnTo=PSA.1 ↩
- “Concerns about Wording in Versions,” (“updated 3 weeks ago by Wayne L Harms”), accessed Aug. 10, 2020, https://help.youversion.com/l/en/article/whhls7y1io-concerns-about-wording-in-translations. ↩
- ”Oh no! That’s a 404. Looks like this piece of content’s gone missing,” accessed Aug 1, 2022, https://help.youversion.com/l/en/article/whhls7y1io-concerns-about-wording-in-translations. ↩
- See, for example, Seth Vitrano-Wilson, “Κύριος in the New Testament: Christology, Trinity, and Translation. ↩
- “Bible Translators Launch Campaign to Provide Scripture Access to Every Language by 2033,” accessed Aug. 1, 2022, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/bible-translators-launch-campaign-to-provide-scripture-access-to-every-language-by-2033-301254266.html. ↩
- Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, “Together for the Gospels,” accessed Aug. 1, 2022, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/may/together-for-gospels-bible-translation-unity-illuminations.html. ↩
- “Spreading Scripture Through Cell Phones,” Reach: Newsletter of Wycliffe’s Last Languages Campaign (Summer 2011), 2. ↩
- ”History,” Scripture Burrito (see section, Every Tribe Every Nation and the Digital Bible Library), accessed Aug. 2, 2022, https://docs.burrito.bible/en/v1.0.0-rc1/introduction/history.html. ↩
- “ Bobby Gruenewald,” in “About Us,” Life.Church, Our Leadership, accessed Aug. 3, 2022, https://www.life.church/who-we-are/. ↩
- Jonathan Sprowl, “Mart Green: On a Quest to Eliminate Bible Poverty,” Outreach Magazine (March 5, 2019), accessed June 16, 2019, https://outreachmagazine.com/interviews/41163-mart-green-on-a-quest-to-eliminate-bible-poverty.html ↩
- “God Made Billionaire; David Green,” Welcome to MyTestimonys Blog! Rev 12:11 (July 6, 2015), accessed Aug. 2, 2022, https://mytestimonys.blogspot.com/2015/07/god-made-billionaire-david-green.html. ↩